Friday, November 30, 2007

Easing Back In

Paris was great, thanks for asking. I may write about it later, but I'm still getting back into the swing of laundry, meals, etc.

I have found time to read Jacob Clifton's recap of the most recent Friday Night Lights episode. The same Jacob Clifton who recaps Gossip Girl. He's really good, people. Television Without Pity is uniformly entertaining, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes even food for thought. But what Clifton is doing is Good Writing. When I read his GG recaps, I keep thinking about what Vera Charles says in Auntie Mame: "I'll never forget what Brooks Atkinson said about that costume. Why, it lifted that turkey right up into a class with Shakespeare!" Now, I know Vera was referring to the costume, but since she had a little pronoun issue, I'm going to pretend she was talking about Atkinson's review. Clifton lifts GG up into a class with...well, with Friday Night Lights at the very least. And he lifts Friday Night Lights up, too, but I'm not going to construct a whole TV drama aesthetic hierarchy for you...I want you to go read his work.

Until my writing brain works again,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Smile the while you kiss me sad adieu

I'm off to the land of the lily. See you in about a week.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Title Redacted Because So Many People Got Here On Lyrics Searches

After a discussion of the inexplicable unavailability of certain songs on MP3,* my brother lent me his CD copies of Mike and the Mechanics and Big Hits of the 80s for ripping purposes. I may never give them back. Whoops, just kidding. What I meant to say is that I began listening to the 80s hits obsessively, and my children's reactions reminded me that I've been germinating a post about 80s music and my children's relationship to it for some time.

S. walks into the kitchen as I wash dishes and bop my head to "Mickey." "What is this?" she asks. "Mickey," I say, most likely in synch with the song, since 78% of the lyrics are "Mickey." "It was one of the first videos on MTV," I offer. "Toni Basil was dressed as a cheerleader."

"Wait, one of the first movies? Really?**"
"No," R. corrects, "one of the first videos. On MTV. Music videos."
"Oh," S. says. "Like the one with the guy walking on top of the water in a pool?"

Yes, my daughter's familiarity with music videos begins and ends with my attempt to describe the video for The Cars' "Magic."

R. walks into the kitchen as I pack the lunches and occasionally spin around to "Centerfold"; "Did he just say, 'My angel is a cellphone?'" he asks.

But that's not what I came here to tell you about.

Came to talk about which songs live and which songs die. Here, of the many hits of the 80s, are the songs with which my children are most familiar:

"Hot Hot Hot" by Buster Poindexter
"Don't You Want Me" by The Human League
"Iron Man" by Black Sabbath
"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M.
"Celebration" by Kool and the Gang
"Holiday" by Madonna (they get "Celebration" and "Holiday" kind of mixed up)
"Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" by C+C Music Factory (okay, that's 1990)

Now there are lots of 80s songs I play in the house that they would recognize; but the above list are the ones they absorbed from the elementary school culture, and it is this that fascinates me. S. tells me that the first two songs on the list are the favored songs for unison bus singing on class trips: she refers to "Hot Hot Hot" as "Ole ole," and even more annoying, they apparently sing "Don't you love me, baby." Incidentally, I treasure the memory of my entire class singing "Sister Christian" in a boro bus, but it may be colored by my knowledge of the "Tiny Dancer" scene in "Almost Famous." On that same bus, I was probably listening to 60s Motown on my Walkman, but nobody was singing it with me. Ergo, the music of my generation has more staying power than that of my parents' generation. Right?

"Iron Man" mystifies me. They even sing a parody, "I am ice cream man/37 flavors in the back of my van..."

The R.E.M., the Kool and the Gang, and the Madonna they must have gotten from movies; they break into the former when things look bad, and the latter two when things look good. It's a "soundtrack of your life" thing.

And I guess no one will ever be able to resist the beat of "Gonna Make You Sweat," not to mention the musical punchline of "Everybody Dance Now."

But still, that's not the top seven 80s songs I would have picked in 1991, 2000, or ever.

*I see that the CD of "Sixteen Candles" is, in fact, available now. Santa?
**Michael Bluth style.

PS Dick Cavett has a blog.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Three Stories About "Shut Up"

First of all, let me say that "shut up" is a terrible thing to say to anyone, and my children are certainly not allowed to say it, ever, and I do not say it. Very often.

But for some reason, people saying shut up can be as hysterically funny as people falling down and hurting themselves.

In chronological order:

1) When I was in college, my singing group went on a road trip to points South. One evening, when I was starting what turned out to be a doozy of a migraine, I was driving a minivan full of--if I may just be a traitor to my sex for a moment here--cackling hens on an unfamiliar Atlanta highway. At night. So when one of them asked jokingly,* "Are we there yet?" I replied, "No. Shut up." This struck everyone as very, very funny, and everyone in the group proceeded to say "No. Shut up." at the slightest provocation for the next year and a half, constantly reminding me of my moment of weakness.

2) The other day my father asked me a question that made me uncomfortable, and when I brushed it off my mother said, "Shut up, he explained." When I asked where that came from she said she thought Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, but the Internet later informed me that it was the genius Ring Lardner who coined this delightful bit of dialogue. I was particularly pleased since the incident in the book is so similar to my own experience.

3) Not long afterward I learned that King Juan Carlos of Spain had suggested to Hugo Chavez, "Why don't you shut up?" I had already felt a tenderness toward King Juan Carlos since this exchange on 30 Rock a few weeks ago: Steve Buscemi, the PI/fixer, suggests that Jack Donaghy quit his all-white country club, and Donaghy objects that it's not all white--what about "Johnny Carlos?" "He's the King of Spain. I don't think that counts." Now I love him passionately.

*This was supposed to be funny because I had already acquired my group nickname--"Mom." Talk about destiny, right?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Seven Things Meme

Various Mamas have tagged me, in a general sense, for the "Seven Random Things About Yourself" meme. Being an overthinker like Mary's friend Kathy, I'm a bit stuck on what constitutes a random fact and what constitutes a basic, essential, fact. At any rate:

1) I hated (read: was so bad at) volleyball so much in high school gym class that I counted down the last 20 times I had to play it senior year, and vowed never to play volleyball again. I kept that vow through the rest of high school, through college (despite the fact that I joined an eating club where a lot of volleyball was played), and finally broke it at a bar with a beach volleyball court when I was 33. And if you're hoping this will be a heartwarming story about how much I loved it or how much better I was than I remembered...sorry!

2) I love to read Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer. They are very British, light on the romance, heavy on the moralizing, brief, and extremely satisfying.

3) I had no middle name until I got married. My father felt that three Vs would be excessive, but any other middle initial would ruin the alliteration.

4) I was never very good at ballet, but I adore movies about ballet dancers. "The Turning Point" and "Center Stage" are particularly good.

5) I have a special devotion to St. Joan of Arc, although I didn't know it was called a special devotion until I became Catholic. The first time I ever saw a picture of her I wanted to know all about her, and have devoured whatever I could find ever since. About Joan of Arc, that is.

6) When I was 23 I lived across the street from an Armenian Orthodox church and two doors down from a brothel.

7) I love chocolate-orange-flavored anything.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Prodigal Returns to the Magazine Basket

I am working my way through a pile of magazines up to 18 months old. I don't know why I stopped reading them--they're the ones with lots of words and very few pictures--except that I may have been traumatized by the man who offered me a bagel at S.'s softball game and then said, his tone dripping with mysterious venom, "Oh please, go back to your magazine."

Anyway, yesterday I found an article that did a lot to repair the psychic wound I incurred in that exchange. I love articles that tell me I'm raising my children properly, and this one was a doozy in that regard. It is entitled "Educated at Home," by Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., and can be found in the September 2006 issue of Chronicles magazine. I will now quote from it at tiresome length, because it bolsters one of my most cherished beliefs: that good conversation at a fine meal is the meaning of life.

Simply put, if, in a believing family, there is close attention to the quality of meals in both their culinary and their social aspects, and if, in the same family, care is taken to read and discuss the best sources, then the pleasure concomitant with these bodily and rational requirements of our nature will serve as a strong motivation for the will to retain the revealed Faith and moral virtue celebrated and proclaimed in the same family. Passing pleasures form the memory and stir up a nostalgia for the good things that never end.

...the sharing of food in the circle of the family and the sharing of thoughts in conversation are like two brackets between which all that is of any value in our culture can be contained.

A word to the parents who have done all they can, and whose sons and daughters have fallen away. There is a parable for you, that of the prodigal son: a parable of a successful domestic education. Was it not the basic human pleasures found in his father's house that moved him to come to himself and return with a heart full of hopeful compunction?...If there is a fatted calf, and music, and dignified vesture, and paternal discourse, we will all persevere until that Sunday afternoon at home comes which no evening shadow will follow.

Speaking of the prodigal son, I have a recommendation for you New York-based readers: the exhibit at the Museum of Biblical Art entitled "The Art of Forgiveness: Images of the Prodigal Son." It is well worth the price of admission, if you take the trouble to slow yourself down, sit on a bench, and really examine some of the pieces. I was particularly taken by James Tissot's modern-dress version, especially since he was known for his exhaustive research into the dress, customs and landscape of the Holy Land in preparation for his other biblical work. I was also struck by how difficult it is to get the father's expression right; there is so much attention paid to the prodigal son and to the resentful "good" brother, but in some ways the father is the most interesting character in the tableau. Or maybe I just say that because I am a parent.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Scientific Evidence...

...of exactly how stupid Lance Bass is. Lance, sweetie, Vegas is full of people who just got married. It's also full of people looking for free drinks. That ploy might have worked in any other city.

Bass Married for Free Drinks

Pop star Lance Bass once married a girlfriend for fun - because they wanted to get free alcohol. The former 'N Sync singer - who is openly gay - admits he had a quickie wedding in Las Vegas in "1999 or 2000" with a girl who was "just a friend" - but their attempts to get free booze failed miserably. He says, "People do stupid things in the heat of the moment. I've been in Vegas where I've gotten married for like five minutes, but no one talks about it, though. In fact, the only reason we did it is because we wanted to get free drinks all night... and we didn't get one. We're like, 'We just got married,' and they're like, 'Ah, whatever.'" Bass came out in July 2006, after 'N Sync disbanded.

Friday, November 02, 2007


I'm not doing NaBloPoMo this year because I am going to Paris! for Thanksgiving week, and I don't have the technology to post across the pond. (It's so exciting I can't wait until the end of the sentence to put in the exclamation point). And I don't think I'd ever be able to do NaNoWriMo. I think, though, that I'll try to take advantage of the frenzy of activity all around me in the blogosphere and finally finish revising my novel. It will mean roughly a chapter a day.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Taking Care of Business and Working Overtime

First order of business: no, yesterday's post title was not a typo, but rather a reference to the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem "The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord" ("I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon..."). Today I'm alluding to 70s Canadian rock to make it easier on everyone.

Halloween report: a good time was had by all, and MomVee is glad Halloween is over for another year. No, I didn't have to make it harder on myself by making Vampire Cupcakes, link thanks to Not Martha. I made a few changes: I used angel food cake, because it is lower in fat than other cake and, interestingly, lower in carbs than reduced-sugar sponge cake. I substituted pureed thawed frozen raspberries for pureed cherry pie filling, because there was no added sugar and raspberries are marginally more nutritious than cherries. I did use canned reduced-sugar frosting, because I'm lazy.

Not too lazy to also make Mummy Dogs, no link because I don't know where I found the idea initially. Google mummy dogs and you'll find a wealth of online expertise, but I'll give you a hint: they're like pigs in a blanket. I also carved M.'s pumpkin and my own pumpkin, yes, I know I don't have to have my own pumpkin, and that that would be another place to save some time and effort. Except my pumpkin was awesome, and how could I deprive the world of that?

On today's agenda: parent-teacher conferences, volunteering at Ronald McDonald House, and piano lessons.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Lemony Snicket has a new book out called "The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story." That makes me smile every time I think about it.